Stormont Centenary Stone bid by unionist parties given approval by Assembly Commission

It comes after Sinn Féin opposed the proposal during Northern Ireland's centenary year, 2021.

Permission to install a commemorative stone to mark Northern Ireland's centenary in the grounds of Stormont has been granted, according to unionist parties.

It comes after a row between the parties during Northern Ireland's centenary year - 2021 - when Sinn Féin opposed the proposal.

John O'Dowd of Sinn Féin vetoed the initial request at the Assembly Commission, a body which manages Stormont's property, staff and services.

He stepped away from his role in the Assembly Commission in 2022 when he was appointed Infrastructure Minister.

Sinn Féin were not able to nominate a replacement as the Assembly has not been able to function due to the DUP's boycott of re-entering the power-sharing institutions.

The DUP removed it's first minister from the executive due to its concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol. It's a post-Brexit trade deal which was agreed between the UK and EU. It has resulted in some checks being carried out on certain goods travelling between GB and NI.

A drawing of the proposed centenary stone

The Assembly Commission is chaired by Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey and is made up of representatives of the five largest parties at Stormont.

A spokesperson for the commission said it had met on Monday and there had been consensus among the four members who hold office to agree the proposal.

They added: "Therefore, officials will now be working through the process required to give effect to the decision."

On Wednesday, the unionist parties said the Assembly Commission has now approved its request.

In a joint statement, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP leader Doug Beattie and TUV leader Jim Allister welcomed the move.

"We are pleased that, though belatedly, the Northern Ireland Centenary will be marked permanently in the curtilage of Parliament Buildings by a centenary stone," they said.

"It was over two years ago that the Assembly Commission refused a collective request from the leaderships of our parties to erect such a commemorative stone, causing great hurt to the unionist community.

"Earlier this month we renewed our request to the Assembly Commission. This time they have given approval, which is most welcome."

The unionist leaders said the stone, which will be in the shape of a map of Northern Ireland, will be mounted on a Portland stone plinth, on a raised area to the west of Parliament Buildings.

"The stone will be paid for by unionist MLAs and therefore will not cost the public purse," they said.

"Our only regret is that Sinn Fein blocked the proposal when first made, but this time they were unable to do so.

"We will give details in due course of the public unveiling of the stone."

In 2021 Sinn Féin said it vetoed the proposal because the stone had been "designed and commissioned by representatives of one tradition" and accused unionists of failing to consult with other parties about their plan.

On Wednesday a Sinn Féin spokesperson said it is "bizarre that the three unionist parties are focused on a stone" amid the latest crisis in the power-sharing government.

"Sinn Féin opposed a stone to celebrate partition when this was previously raised at the Assembly Commission," the spokesperson said.

"Sinn Féin currently has no vote on the Assembly Commission.

"It's bizarre that three unionist parties focused on a stone while the Assembly is being blocked from doing business on the real issues which are affecting the lives of all our people, such as restoring the Executive, passing vital legislation such as Dáithí's Law, tackling health waiting lists and supporting workers and families through a cost-of-living crisis."

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